“Everything is pretty much played live apart from the drums”: Dua Lipa and Mark Ronson on the making of Dance The Night, from the Barbie movie

Billie Eilish and Finneas have already taken us behind the glittery pink curtain and explained how they created their Barbie track, What Was I Made For?, and now Dua Lipa and Mark Ronson have been discussing the writing and production of Dance The Night, also from the mega-hit movie.

Speaking to Variety, Ronson begins by confirming that he wrote the backing track with Lipa in mind. He sent her a message, she got onboard, and then the two of them set to work in the studio.

Lipa explains that, because Barbie director Greta Gerwig and the cast were already working to Ronson’s track, they had limited scope to change the arrangement. In fact, they were writing to the scene that features Barbie [Margot Robbie] and her friends dancing, and made every effort to ensure that the lyrics matched what was happening on screen. “It was just a really fun jigsaw,” says Lipa, also revealing that “we worked on melodies for a while - we had a little [Shure] SM7 in the room.”

Of the song’s vibe, Ronson adds that “Greta had referenced the Bee Gees a lot. We think of the songs as kind of upbeat, fluffy disco, but a lot of the chords and the beats and the rhythms, especially on like Stayin Alive era, it’s really tough.” 

The original chord progression for Dance The Night was written by Ronson on his Rhodes electric piano. Then came a slightly eerie string sample - worked on with French production duo the Picard Brothers - which was eventually replayed live using real strings. In fact, the song is full of live instrumentation, including a surprisingly gritty bass guitar part. “Everything is pretty much played live apart from the drums, which I programmed and also did with the Picard Brothers,” says Ronson.

Lipa and Ronson go on to reveal some of the more subtle mix elements that you may have missed: an acoustic guitar strum, and the ‘whisper vocals’ that Lipa recorded to sit under the lead vocal at various points. Ronson also highlights the slightly discombobulating turnaround before the chorus: “So that’s just like three bars and then a bar of two [beats], which is just like half a bar.”

And then there’s the bridge, which Lipa wrote to just a drum track, and is designed to step things down a bit in comparison to the rest of the song. “I’m such a fan of talky, chanty moments in songs,” she says of her ‘talky, chanty moment’ in this one.

“I’m an old guy so all my references are kind of old, but it just reminds me of The Jacksons,” says Ronson of the final vocal breakdown, and he and Lipa certainly managed to capture that ‘70s disco vibe.

In fact, so big has Dance The Night’s impact been that it’s just been nominated in the Best Original Song category at The Golden Globes - alongside the aforementioned What Was I Made For? and I’m Just Ken, another Barbie song. Bruce Springsteen, Lenny Kravitz and Jack Black are also in the running.

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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